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HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth is in the final stages of being built before beginning sea trials in March 2017

This year will be the start of a “new era of maritime power” for Britain, as the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier leaves its shipyard and begins sea trials, the Defence Secretary has said.

The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth will begin trials in the North Sea in March, before moving to its new home in Portsmouth later in the year.

Its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will enter the water for the first time in the summer in Rosyth as work on her continues.

HMS Queen ELizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to move to its new home in Portsmouth in May

The Ministry of Defence has declared 2017 the year of the Navy after a series of disclosures last year about unreliable warships, cuts, and undermanning.

Sir Michael Fallon said: “2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to be ready for its first deployment in 2021, 11 years after the defence review which axed Britain’s old carriers and their Harrier jets.

The MoD has also vowed to begin cutting the first steel in Glasgow for eight new Type 26 frigates later this year, amid fears delays in replacing the aging Type 23 vessels will see the fleet shrink further next decade.

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